Friday, April 29, 2011

French & Korean

Vivian and I were spending the afternoon together, and we decided to try out a food court near where I live to start. She had heard good things about a French bakery called Paris Baguette, so we started there. You can walk around a large island that's full of clear bakery boxes. You pick out what you want and put it on your tray, then pay at the end. There's also loaves of bread and some more pastries along the wall, so there's really a lot to pick from! We each chose a variety of things and then ordered drinks at the counter when we paid. I chose an iced mocha, while Vivian picked a green tea. She thought that the tea was average, and I felt the same about my mocha. Unfortunately, I waited a LONG time for my mocha. After five minutes, I went up and asked about it, and it was clear that they had forgotten to make it - so they gave us two small pound cakes as an apology. The pastries were fairly priced and pretty good, though they were definitely better that day than the next few (I bought like $8 worth of goodies, so I took home 5 or 6 things after enjoying 3 there). The cheese puff and strawberry-and-cream croissant were the best.

We decided that we should also eat some "real" food, so Vivian took me to a part of the food court that has 5 Korean places in a row. We looked at all of the menus before settling on Dishes. We both ordered the dumpling soup, which came with kimchi, vegetables, and some other things with which I was not familiar. Vivian also ordered a side dish of something... it was like sushi but it was beef inside instead of fish. I didn't try it. While I thought the prices were a little high when we ordered, it turned out that they gave us TONS of food, so I guess it was probably worth it. That is, if you liked it. I found the broth to be REALLY starchy, and the dumplings kept falling apart. It was still okay, but I wouldn't get it again. However, I had never had this Korean dish before, so it's possible that it was just as good as any other dumpling soup.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sunday in San Francisco

Our anniversary celebration continued as we spent a day in San Francisco. Back in January I bought tickets for the Chocolate Salon, which is like a giant room filled with booths that offer you free chocolates, wines, chocolate milks, and other delicacies. We had a bit of a problem parking, especially when you consider that Fort Mason was hosting multiple events that day. We eventually found a spot less than a mile away, though there were a couple of hills and lots of stairs. It was also windy, and my ears hurt on the way back to the car. Anyway, that's beside the point.

The Salon was crowded, but there were over 70 booths, so we were able to work our way around without too much trouble. I wasn't expecting so many booths to offer local wines, but we certainly tried more than a handful. We were ultimately able to try every single booth's wares except one (hand-painted chocolates), which had a very long line for most of the show. I loved some of the truffles we tried, particularly a truffle log, which had multiple flavors in a single piece. Jonathan also enjoyed that one. Over the course of two-and-a-half hours, we savored tons of delicious chocolate samples. The event was much larger than the Bucks County Chocolate Show, and was certainly worth the $21 each we paid for tickets. If we're around next spring, I hope to go again!


We left the Chocolate Salon and had some time before we needed to pick up Jim, so Jonathan took me to a grilled cheese place that he's tried before, The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen. The menu is pretty small, and we decided to share a soup and sandwich. My first choice sandwich (Mousetrap) was sold out for the day, so we went with the Piglet, which was cheddar with ham and apple mustard (and regular butter, since I asked for no rosemary butter). It was really good, though I wish we had been able to get the other sandwich. Jonathan enjoyed the Smoky Tomato soup (with creme fraiche and croutons), though I didn't really care for it. All in all, sharing made for a good afternoon snack.


Jim wanted pizza, and a new place had opened up just a few days earlier near his apartment. So, on our way out of SF, we stopped by Escape from New York and got a Big Meat Combo, which was pepperoni, sausage, onions, and green peppers. I wasn't hungry, so several hours later I reheated a slice, and it was delicious. Over the next week, I enjoyed every piece I microwaved. The guys also liked it. It was expensive for a pizza (like twenty bucks), so I wouldn't order from there often, but I did like that they had sliced sausage instead of crumbled!

Friday, April 22, 2011

McCormick & Schmick's

We were celebrating eleven years of being a couple last week, and this included going out for a nice dinner. We chose McCormick & Schmick's because we have wanted to go to one for a while, we were in the mood for seafood, and there's one not far away. So, we made a reservation and drove down to San Jose. We were able to find $4 parking (honestly, the main reason I can't stand San Jose is because they make you pay to park. It's easier to park for free in San Francisco than it is in San Jose!), and only had to wait a few minutes when we arrived at the restaurant.

We weren't really at an ideal table, as the sun was completely in my eyes. Jonathan partially closed the curtains, and then they were opened later when the sun was down. Neither of us were thrilled with the wine and cocktail selection, but eventually I chose a margarita and Jonathan picked a whiskey-cherry juice-something else drink. They were both pretty good, though I thought the margarita was heavy on the triple sec.


Now, McCormick & Schmick's is one of those restaurants that have a different menu each day, and that's both exciting and annoying... you'll be surprised by what's available, but you also can't plan ahead. We started with a smoked salmon quesadilla, though I was a little hesitant because Jonathan doesn't always like smoked salmon. When it came, I was a bit surprised... the description mentioned a drizzle of sour cream, but ours had more of a scoop of it in the middle. Not worth making a fuss over, and we dove right in. I found the blend of flavors to be delicious, and Jonathan also enjoyed the appetizer, though not to the extent that I did.

Our waters were refilled promptly for the most part, and very subtly, which I prefer. We waited quite a bit for our entrees, but the restaurant was pretty full. They were, however, well worth the wait. I chose mahi mahi with couscous, which was priced especially for Lent, which amused me... it's a seafood place, so most dishes are suitable for Lenten meals, but only a few were "specially priced for Lent." The couscous was fabulous, with onions cooked just right gracing the top. The fish was good, too, and even reheated well when I had my leftovers a few days later. Jonathan chose a wild seafood trio, which included shrimp, mahi mahi, and salmon. There were two large shrimp, and he gave me one. It was lovely, though perhaps a tad overcooked. He thought that the salmon was different (but good), and attributed that to the fact that it was labeled as "wild." He found the pico to be too spicy - I thought it was okay, but it had a strong kick at the end. Her greatly enjoyed the mushroom risotto as well, and was pleased with his selection in the end.

I look forward to dining at another McCormick & Schmick's again someday, but I'm not thinking I'd repeat that specific location again... parking irks me.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Boardwalk

Jonathan and I hadn't seen our friend, Kathy, in a while, so we made dinner plans. However, she needed to head to Los Altos later, so we agreed to meet her in that direction. We randomly looked up places until we found one that had good reviews, and that's how we ended up at The Boardwalk. It's pretty easy to find, and if there was a really big sporting event going on, I don't think there'd be enough parking. However, since it was just a regular basketball and hockey night, the place wasn't very crowded.

I honestly found a lot of faults with this place, and am not in a hurry to go there again. First, when you walk in, it's not really clear what the set-up is. Turns out, you walk all the way across the room to the counter where you pick up food. The menu is above that. You order at the register to the right of the counter. So, while you look at the menu, you're blocking the way of people coming up to get their food. And, if the restaurant had been crowded, this would have been a problem. Additionally, with the chairs and tables in the configuration we saw, I'm not sure where a line would even form if needed. I looked through the menu and was about ready to order when Kathy arrived, so we were able to place our orders at the same time.

Jonathan got 20 hot wings, I got the Boardwalk burger (but with regular bacon instead of Canadian and an upgrade of spicy curly fries instead of regular). Kathy ordered the chicken caesar wrap. When the cashier gave us our total, it sounded about a dollar high to me. I immediately mentioned it to Jonathan, who pointed out that I don't always remember that tax is so high out here (it is 9.5%). So, I waited to see the receipt. But, we didn't receive an itemized, only a credit card slip. So, I'm not positive that the prices on the menu were accurate. The cashier also wasn't the friendly type, so I moved on.

We chose a table and sat down with our waters, waiting for our buzzers to go off. It was at this point that I realized that they never asked me how I wanted my burger cooked, which concerned me (in the end, it was well, so that was fine with me). Kathy's buzzer went off first, and she went up to grab her food. She was surprised to find that it came with chips, as that was not noted on the menu. Our order did not come up for at least ten more minutes, which was disturbing. After the first five, Jonathan went up to check on it, but the woman was not able to articulate (at least in English) what the situation was, other than "a few more minutes." He was actually on his way up to ask again when it looked like our order was being placed on the counter for pick-up. Since it had been so long, we encouraged Kathy to begin eating, and she was almost halfway through when our food was finally ready. We also all needed water refills before the food was ready... which is a pain there since you would have to wait in the order line to ask for a refill had there been anyone else in the restaurant (there were maybe ten people in the entire place).

My burger was good. In fact, there was nothing to complain about. There was, however, a sauce on it that the menu did not mention. But, it was yummy, so I didn't care. The "spicy" curly fries were no spicier than you'd find at Arby's or Checker's/Rally's, but that was fine; I was hungry. Jonathan didn't care too much for the wings, deeming them a little plain. Kathy tried a couple as well, and thought that they were overcooked - Jonathan agreed.

In the end, we did take the remainder of the wings to-go, and Kathy also brought home half of her wrap. I finished my burger and opted not to bring home the fries... which tells you how mediocre they were. So, I'm not impressed as a whole. If there was a good sporting event on, I'd give them another try. They did have a nice arrangement of large televisions, though I would fear that it would be difficult to get them to put on a "non-regional" game, since there weren't tons of televisions. If we decide to return next football season, I'll be sure to give you guys a second report.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Honeyberry

When Jonathan's parents were here, they took me to ice cream one afternoon. We were coming out of Walgreens when they suggested it, so we popped right into Honeyberry, since it's in the same plaza. The place was pretty full, which was surprising because it was 2 or 3pm on a Thursday. After looking over the options for a minute or two, I went with a scoop of the tiramisu gelato, and his dad picked peach gelato. The pricing was pretty cheap for gelato, at around $2/scoop (you pay by weight, and I added some kiwi and an oreo to mine). However, we weren't extremely taken by it. At first bite, something tasted "off" about mine (I should also mention that I normally sample at a dessert place, but because of the crowd I didn't bother... mistake). I later determined that it tasted as if there was cardamom in the gelato... which is weird. Jonathan's mom tried the peach as well, and didn't care for it, agreeing that they must add some type of spice to it. We sat and took our time in the place, and it never really slowed down... it was almost full the entire time we were there! Many people seemed to be getting either the roti buns or the green tea ice. I wouldn't go back for gelato (and I didn't care for the four flavors of fro-yo they had), but maybe I'd give the roti bun a try. Of course, I'm not often in the mood for a random pastry, so maybe not.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Carmel-by-the-Sea

Because Jonathan needed to work and I needed to spend my days revising, his parents did a lot of exploring on their own while they visited. However, we were able to take a day and go to Carmel, which proved to be a good experience.

Carmel is short for Carmel-by-the-Sea, and it's a little more than an hour south of us, on the coast. We had originally hoped to go past Carmel and on to Big Sur as well, but there had been a mudslide and the only roads that go there were completely blocked.

Carmel was founded in 1902, so it's fairly young. However, the people living there were all poets and artists and writers, so they decided not to number buildings. seriously. The streets have names, but everything within the 1-square-mile that is Carmel has no number. All addresses are given by the name of the place, or simply something like "on sixth between Lincoln and Dolores." We did not see a single number on anything until we were outside the city! We drove through the main street and found a 30-minute-parking spot. I was kinda weirded out that we saw SO MANY DOGS. They were all on leashes and everything, but there were just TONS of them! And many establishments put out water bowls in front of the door for the doggies! And there were leash tie-ups all over the place! Well, as it turns out, Carmel is a very dog-friendly city, and it always has been. There's even a leash-free beach! And, many of the hotels let you have dogs as well. We walked up and down a few streets, grabbed pretzels at the Carmel bakery, and went into a few shops.

Then, we drove a very nice scenic route that wound along the coast, treating us to beautiful, one-of-a-kind houses on one side, and the Pacific ocean on the other. We pulled over a few times to look around and take photos.
 
Then, we attempted to get as close to the Big Sur as possible. Jonathan and his dad found an alternate route that would be a dirt road but might work, except the roadblock was before you got to it, even though everything online said that you could get to the Bixby bridge.
 
 
On the way back, we decided that we were hungry so we stopped in Carmel to try the Little Swiss Cafe, which was recommended in Frommer's. It was a quaint little place, with cute paintings on the walls. I ordered the cheese blintzes, which was good. They were quite sweet, but I imagine that's how they should be (I'd only had them one time before, and I don't remember them all that well). Hot chocolate, coffee, and corned beef has all had good reviews from everyone, and neither Jonathan nor his mom finished their sandwiches, so we took half of a corned beef sandwich home, and half of a french dip. They didn't last long though, so they must've been delicious!

Afterward, we headed back to our house and had a low-key afternoon before grilling for dinner, which also yielded a yummy meal (though, unfortunately, we also found out that Lucky makes a very sweet potato salad, LoL).

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Back to Great America

Jonathan's work rented out Great America for their Employee Appreciation Day this year, just like they did in 2009 (and do every year, apparently). Jonathan's parents were also visiting while the free day took place, so the four of us made plans to spend the day at the theme park. However, it was raining pretty heavily in the morning, so we didn't get around to going until about 2pm, when the sky had cleared a bit. We only live about 15 minutes from the park, so it's not a big deal to drive over there, and with free parking and free lunch, it was definitely worth going to. [since we didn't do as much as we did last time, feel free to pop over to my old entries to read more about the park: Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4]

However, it was still pretty cold, probably in the upper 50s. This made it fairly uncomfortable to ride anything that moved quickly, so we stayed away from roller coasters and the like. We started off with the overhead gondola ride, which I always enjoy. You get a nice view of the the park, and can see what's busy and what's not in many areas. Then, we headed to lunch. The potato salad was good, the penne was pretty boring, the barbecue chicken was good, the potato roll was plain, and Jonathan said that the hot dogs were okay. It was too cold for me to have ice cream, but they only had ice cream sandwiches and push-pops, so I wasn't missing much, LoL.

We wandered around a little bit, then went over to see the Peanuts Pirate Adventure show. I was excited because I enjoy the Peanuts characters and "swashbuckling" in the show description caught my eye, LoL. [oh, and sidenote: the park had been bought-out since we went in 2009, and now it's Peanuts-themed instead of NICK-themed, though there are still some NICK rides] I was pretty disappointed. There was no swashbuckling... in fact, there was only a tiny bit of time that swords were even in play. There was no plot, just a few lines stringing together the songs and dances. The show was about 12 minutes long, and that's including time for the characters in the show to bring up a dozen or so kids to the stage so that they could swab the poopdeck, LoL.



After that, we met up with Eilbroun and Carmen for a few minutes before heading over to the SpongeBob SquarePants ride. We weren't entirely sure what to expect (the map gave no descriptions of any of the rides), but it ended up being pretty fun. You sit in a tall, slightly reclined seat, and seatbelt yourself in before putting on 3D glasses. Then you watch SpongeBob make a krabby patty, but the pickle gets lose and you run across town. The chair shakes and raises and drops and all kinds of stuff - much more involved that the Back to the Future ride in Florida! When that was over, we headed toward the front of the park to ride the two-story carousel. We ended up catching part of the Celebration in the Plaza show, which had more of the Peanuts characters but also a bunch of ribbon-dancers, which was strange. We had originally planned to meet back up with Carmen and EB to ride the Star Tower as a group, but they were still in line for Grizzly, the park's wooden roller coaster (which also happens to have the WORST safety rating IN THE COUNTRY). So, we went on it without them. I always enjoy those types of rides - you slowly revolve as you rise higher and higher, until you're at the top and revolve a few more times before starting to come down again.

We tried to pick more rides to go on, but with the weather being cold and windy, we just weren't feeling it. Plus, several things were opening and closing with the rain, so we didn't want to go to one area just to find out that something is closing, or worse, stand in line for twenty minutes only for the ride to close before we actually got on.

It was a pretty low-key day, but it worked. I think the most interesting thing is that the Invertigo, which I mentioned both other times we went to Great America [oh yeah, we went last Halloween while house-hunting, too], is now gone. Like, completely ripped out, and only dirt remains where it once stood.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Marie Callender's

When I was in graduate school, I discovered Marie Callender's pot pies. Specifically, the Parmesan Chicken variety. That one has broccoli instead of peas, and that makes all the difference to me. I love that pot pie, and whenever I'm home alone for a week or so, I pick one up and have it for dinner one night. Jonathan doesn't really like them, and they're pretty bad for you, so I only eat about three or four a year. Anyway, more to the point... when we moved to California in 2009, we drove by a Marie Callender's Restaurant & Bakery from time to time, but we never stopped in. Because of where we're living now, we pass it about once a week, and it really looks enticing. So, with Jonathan's parents visiting, and a decent coupon in the mail, we decided to give it a try.

We went on a Saturday night, and the place was pretty crowded. We only needed to wait about two minutes for a booth, but every table that we passed was full. Coat hooks were at every booth, so that was nice. Service wasn't ideal, but it wasn't bad, either. Our coupon was 1/2 price entrees with the purchase of another entree and two beverages. And, it allowed you to use it twice at the table, so that worked out for all of us. I had the strawberry lemonade, which was pretty good. At first it tasted pretty fake, but once I got past the sweetness, it was good. And there were real bits of strawberries in it, which is always nice in my opinion. Everyone else got hot tea, and they enjoyed it.

Jonathan added the salad bar to his meal, and I think that he's glad that he did. There were some nice choices on the bar, like ham and turkey, pasta salad, and multiple soups. He ordered the meatloaf meal, which came with a small portion of mashed potatoes, plus steamed carrots and broccoli. He said that the broccoli was good. The meatloaf was different, as it had bits of grated carrot in it, giving it a strange texture. The potatoes were real and good, but not plentiful. I went with the "souper sandwich," which was a bowl of soup and a half sandwich. I chose the potato cheese soup, which was very good, though a bit too hot at the beginning. I picked the tuna sandwich, which was plain tuna with lettuce on grilled parmesan sourdough. It was a pretty good combination. I understand how they priced my meal at $10 (bowls of soup are like $7 there!), but I wasn't too satisfied in the end with the portion for the price.

Jonathan's mom went with the Trio, which I was hoping would work for me, but ultimately did not. You get a caesar salad, a choice of pot pie, and a choice of pie for dessert. The only pot pie options they have are the regular chicken (with peas) and Shepherd's (also with peas). I'm surprised that they don't have more options, since there are so many varieties in the frozen section at the grocery store, LoL. Anyway, she chose the Shepherd's pie and the cherry pie. We all had bites of the cherry pie, and it seemed that everyone else liked it. I thought it was a bit tart, as cherry pies tend to be (except when made with rainier cherries, LoL). The caesar salad was pretty light on the dressing, but the server brought out more pretty quickly. I can't remember what his dad had, despite the fact that we talked about it a couple of days later, too, LoL. I want to say that he liked it, but it has completely slipped my memory. I guess that's what happens when I don't get a chance to post more often!